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Volume 7, Issue 50  |  June 24, 2022

Pacific Symphony working with UCI public health experts on COVID-19 plan

University of California, Irvine public health experts are providing consulting services to Pacific Symphony to enable the Orange County ensemble to once again play music together – which hasn’t happened since early March because of the coronavirus pandemic. 

In the past months, Pacific Symphony has held online events – including virtual concerts, living room concerts on video, internet interview programs and KCET and PBS SoCal’s “Southland Sessions Presents Pacific Symphony” series – featuring offerings from the orchestra’s archival vaults.

As part of a consultation agreement between UCI and Pacific Symphony, UCI public health and epidemiology experts have reviewed Pacific Symphony’s plans for mitigating employees’ risk of exposure to COVID-19 and recommended ways to improve infrastructure, procedures and policies to protect against it.

Pacific Symphony performance

Click on photo for a larger image

Courtesy of Pacific Symphony

Pacific Symphony during a performance

“Pacific Symphony has some very unique considerations related to preventing the spread of the virus,” said Karen Edwards, chair and professor of epidemiology in UCI’s Program in Public Health and the project’s faculty lead. “Even without audiences present, they’ll need to take a number of precautions to stay physically distant, especially when performing music.” 

UCI experts conducted a walk-through at Pacific Symphony’s concert hall and provided online training about the spread of infectious diseases and the best mitigation practices. The training included several Q&A sessions with remote attendees, and a recording is available for Pacific Symphony to share with employees.

The university team also created templates so that Pacific Symphony can establish procedures for staff screening, symptom and temperature checks, staff self-monitoring, physical distancing, hand hygiene and masking. 

“UCI brought tremendous expertise in their review of the plans my staff and I developed. While they were complimentary of our preparation, they had important recommendations that will ensure the highest levels of safety for the musicians and staff involved in returning music to the stage,” said Eileen Jeanette, Pacific Symphony’s senior vice president of artistic planning and production.

Assistant concertmaster Jeanne Skrocki, the musicians’ representative, has been involved in the project as part of the group of UCI experts and symphony management. She added: “The musicians are pleased that the symphony is going above and beyond to work with UCI’s Program in Public Health so that we can play together again. We have the highest confidence in the scientific rigor that is being brought to bear on this matter.”

Symphony leadership hopes to be able to bring musicians back this season to record concerts without audiences either indoors or outdoors. For those sessions, players of wind instruments are likely to sit farther apart than players of string instruments, with Plexiglas separating them.

“We know the musicians have missed playing and our audiences have missed hearing them,” said John Forsyte, president and CEO of Pacific Symphony. “We look forward to the time in the hopefully not-too-distant future when we can again record great classical music in the pristine acoustics of the Renée and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall. And this is the first important step in that direction.”

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